The Global Credentialing Landscape: Messy, Massive and Meaningful

Key Points

  • There is a global need for a credential certification board.

  • Transfering credentials between national lines must become easier as the world changes. 

A student navigates a complex landscape of credentials and badges.

By: James Mattiace

Picture this: a second-year university student from Ghana wants to transfer to the University of Leeds and receive credit for courses completed in their home country. Similarly, an individual has completed a law degree in Malaysia and now wants to practice in Italy. Both of these learners hit the same snag, the immense challenge of converting credentials and experiences (e.g. converting UK Key Stage 4 to US early High School). Those responsible for this critical work exist but are rarely talked about. 

At the 10th Annual The Association for Credential Evaluation Professionals (TAICEP) Conference, nearly 250 delegates from 24 countries gathered to focus on topics like the varying national educational systems, issues with refugees and war-torn countries, spotting fraudulent transcripts and diplomas, and evaluating non-traditional pathways like micro-credentials and work experience for credit. 

TAICEP shines a light on the whole world of benevolent behind-the-scenes operators who manage the fate of thousands of applicants to universities, trade schools, and visa offices who don’t quite fit the definition of normal. Determining eligibility and the next steps require a massive amount of knowledge about national systems, languages, and deciphering what is meant by items like “paraprofessional level one training.” Through sessions and conversations, a few big-picture questions emerged.

Who is governing?

The world is getting more complex. Different countries are adapting their educational and professional certification programs and there is a proliferation of fraudulent credentials, which will likely get worse before it gets better as we enter an increasingly AI-infused world. To combat this, some attendees proposed global governance on items like verifying credits awarded for MOOCs, Micro-credentials, competency-based programs, and industry certifications. 

Even within this reimagined governance model, there was no consensus on effective strategies to assess the value of non-traditional, non-credit-bearing learning experiences. Anneta Stroud, AACRAO (Registrars and Admissions Officers), was very clear that universities need to get on board, like yesterday.  At one of the later sessions, a team from South Africa presented on their attempts to bring micro-credentials (AKA short skills programs or part qualifications) under their National Qualifications Framework (NQF). The presenter noted that Malaysia has also had success with defining and evaluating micro-credentials and that UNESCO, the EU, and the OECD have all drafted blueprints or policy recommendations on micro-credentials, but to date, there is no common agreement on definitions, rigor, or assessments.

Who certifies the certifiers?

The recognition of this global community of credential evaluators organized by TAICEP is only ten years old. However, TAICEP itself is just a membership organization for anyone involved in the specialized field of international credential evaluation. Delegates represent “higher education institutions, independent evaluation agencies, ENIC/NARIC offices, government ministries, licensing authorities, examination boards, awarding bodies, and other organizations.” It is not a global governing body. Therefore, there remains a need for a certification program and industry standards for the credential evaluation profession. TAICEP has proposed its own set of rigorous mini-certifications on various aspects of the profession, but ironically those micro-credentials suffer from the same lack of authority that puzzles the credentialing community on other forms of micro-credentialing.

How do we deal with the non-traditional?

This profession is full of completely out-of-the-box situations. One panel discussion which included university and industry representatives shared stories about candidates presenting credentials that had never been seen before and the rabbit holes they have to go down to figure out equivalencies or to validate that person’s education or training as acceptable. The panel and audience members shared the view that they should act as an accessory rather than an obstacle and how much joy it brings them when they can tell someone that their credential has been accepted as valid. Three different sessions addressed the issue of dealing with credentials from war-torn regions like Syria or Ukraine where there was longer a university or trade school to validate. In one panel, one of the better-known agencies, World Educational Services, had teamed up with the national certification board in South Africa in a pilot project to validate the credentials of over 6,000 refugees. 

As the world continues to evolve its understanding of what an education is, professional credential evaluators are an important component of that cycle, whether behind the scenes or sitting directly in front of that candidate clutching a piece of paper they worked very hard to achieve and hoping it will be accepted as valid evidence of learning. 

James Mattiace is an assessment reform advocate. Previously, he was a principal and an IB teacher.

Credentialing Wheel

Credentialed Learning

With Credentialed Learning, students have ownership of creating their academic selves, determine where they’re headed  and with whom they share their journey.  Credentialed Learning allows students to carry digital credentials and learning records with them everywhere they go so they are always ready for every opportunity.

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